William Maley

Quick Drive: 2016 Fiat 500C Abarth

17 posts in this topic

William Maley    405

The last time I drove a Fiat 500C Abarth, it with six-speed automatic. I found it to be quite a cheeky vehicle with an exhaust note that makes you think you’re driving something a bit more powerful and a look that helped it stand out. But I couldn’t help but wonder how the Abarth is with the manual transmission. About a couple of months ago, I slipped behind the wheel of another 500C Abarth, this time with the manual. The end result was a bit of a letdown.

  • The manual transmission in question is a five-speed and it isn’t any fun to use. The throw is somewhat long and imprecise. A few times, I found myself going into the wrong gear because I couldn’t tell where I was in the gear pattern. Not helping matters is the clutch which not only has a long travel, but it isn’t easy to find the takeoff point. This is one of those vehicles where the automatic makes more sense.
  • The turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder produces 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The engine is quite the performer with power coming on strong at low rpm. Engage the Sport mode and the engine becomes more spritely.
  • Some reviews criticize the 500 Abarth’s suspension for being a bit too soft for a performance model. I really don’t see that as I think the Abarth strikes a good balance between handling and ride comfort. Yes, the Abarth will show a little bit more body roll in the corners. But it doesn’t detract from the quick direction change the vehicle is able to pull off thanks to its short wheelbase. The ride is slightly bouncy over bumps, but it isn’t to the point of annoyance.
  • One area that the Abarth could use some improvement is in the steering. A little bit more road feel and weight would not be a bad thing for a performance hatch.
  • If you happen to be a shrinking violet, then pass on getting the yellow paint like on my tester. The level of ‘LOOK AT ME’ is turned up to 11.
  • Fiat will say the 500C is a convertible, but it is more of a targa - the roof rails and pillars stay up, and the canvas roof folds. But I do like that you can open or close it at speed.
  • Visibility must have a different meaning in Italian than English since the view from the rear is almost nonexistent with the top up or down.
  • The interior hasn’t changed much which is both good and bad. The good is the retro styling that adds a bit of charm. The bad are how the front seats feel like you're sitting on a stool. If there was a height adjustment for the seats or a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel, this would ok. But since there isn’t, you’ll find yourself in a somewhat awkward seating position.
  • As for pricing, the 500C Abarth with the manual begins at $26,695. With options, the as-tested price came to $31,695. The automatic if you wondering adds $1,350 to the price.
  • But there is some good news over the horizon. Fiat will be cutting prices on a number of their models for 2017, with the biggest ones coming to the 500C. It might be worth waiting for the 2017 model since a lower price could make it slightly easier to convince yourself that you can live with something that is quite small, but packs a lot of character. But be sure to go with the automatic.

 

Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 500C Abarth, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2016
Make: Fiat
Model: 500C
Trim: Abarth
Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L 16-Valve MultiAir Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Five-Speed Manual, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 170 @ 2,500-4,000 
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/34/30
Curb Weight: 2,545 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Toluca, Mexico
Base Price: $26,695
As Tested Price: $31,965 (Includes $995 Destination Charge)

Options:
17-inch Forged Aluminum Hyper Black Wheels - $1,400.00
Popular Equipment Package - $975.00
Beats Audio Package - $700.00
Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow) - $500.00
Nero (Black) Mirror Cap with Body Side Stripe - $450.00
Nero (Black) Trimmed Lights - $250.00


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dfelt    1,865

I know some will love this little Italian Job, but for me, :puke: 

IMHO!

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1 hour ago, dfelt said:

I know some will love this little Italian Job, but for me, :puke: 

IMHO!

You and I have very different tastes in vehicles.....!:D

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28 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

32K!?!?!?! No wonder they're slashing prices!! My GTI SE w/ Perf Pkg MSRP'd for that, and it's WAY more car than this thing.

The Abarth is a deal used at 10 or 11K, which is where one can find them late model with low miles if one looks.

The GTI is an actual real automobile....

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FAPTurbo    1,090

the Abarth only excels when it's a barebones affair.

lose the ragtop, the (kinda not great) 'beats' system, superfluous equipment packages and exorbitant visual tack-ons and it becomes the perky, down n' dirty runabout it ought to be. 

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4 minutes ago, bigpoolog said:

the Abarth only excels when it's a barebones affair.

lose the ragtop, the (kinda not great) 'beats' system, superfluous equipment packages and exorbitant visual tack-ons and it becomes the perky, down n' dirty runabout it ought to be. 

Agreed....and I kind of like the car in some ways.....

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Stew    350

I really like the Abarth and the base turbo (IMHO, kill the base NA 4).  Give the little sucker a 6 speed, interior update, and at least new front/rear fascias and it will be a better car. 

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1 minute ago, Stew said:

I really like the Abarth and the base turbo (IMHO, kill the base NA 4).  Give the little sucker a 6 speed, interior update, and at least new front/rear fascias and it will be a better car. 

Or at the very least better build quality....

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Stew    350
9 minutes ago, A Horse With No Name said:

Or at the very least better build quality....

That too haha, but I don't think the thing has been updated since it first came out in Europe how many years ago now?

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28 minutes ago, Stew said:

That too haha, but I don't think the thing has been updated since it first came out in Europe how many years ago now?

Agreed!

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23 minutes ago, surreal1272 said:

So many more, and better, choices for $32K. Just a whole lot of "nope" there.

At this point, the compelling arguments in the sport compact segment are the GTI and WRX....with the Civic SI a distant third.

In terms of pure sports cars, the only real game in town is the Miata below 30 or 35K....370 Z is very dated....

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surreal1272    759
4 minutes ago, A Horse With No Name said:

At this point, the compelling arguments in the sport compact segment are the GTI and WRX....with the Civic SI a distant third.

In terms of pure sports cars, the only real game in town is the Miata below 30 or 35K....370 Z is very dated....

And I would take any of them, including the 370Z, over this. It's ugly on the outside, even uglier on the inside, and an unreliable pile of top of that. That is the perfect recipe for never getting a dime from me.

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7 minutes ago, surreal1272 said:

And I would take any of them, including the 370Z, over this. It's ugly on the outside, even uglier on the inside, and an unreliable pile of top of that. That is the perfect recipe for never getting a dime from me.

Again, the only sport compacts I could see dropping a dime for would be the WRX, GTI, Miata and BRZ/86.

Everything else can just pound so much sand for all I care....even the Civic SI really really leaves a lot to be desired IMHO.

Edited by A Horse With No Name
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Just now, Stew said:

They could modifiy this platform for this

 

dodge-hornet-concept-11.jpg

There is no limit to the creative ideas they could get flowing....but it will never happen due to Sergio and a lack of interest in the US market.

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      Though a dated interior, the 500e's cream white dash and matching faux-leather seats spruce the space up enough to take eyes off of the hard plastics. Orange accents on the doors and the seating add a playful, premium flair, albeit once your hand's drawn to them, do you realize this is still an economy car.
      Buttons and dials are close at hand and easy to use, and felt relatively satisfying to press, save for the one blank 'dead' button below the climate controls. I wish companies would make the effort to turn dead buttons into something, even if it's redundant functionality.
      A single digital display occupies the gauge pod, providing easy to read speed, mileage and remaining power information. Like some other electrics and hybrids, the 500e provides feedback on your driving; green for being energy efficient, red for not. It's not as gamified as Ford's use of green leaves in their system but it works well enough.  
      Using manual controls, finding a comfortable seating position for my 6'3 frame was easy, with legroom to spare. The seats didn't feel as if I'd slid into a penalty box, and I felt well supported. Aside from the chunky B-pillars, the seats provided a commanding view of the road, moreso than some other cars I've driven in this class.
      Rear space is adequate for a grocery run, and with the seats folded down, the 500e is surprisingly spacious. 
      The Cinquecento With Zip
      Upon starting the vehicle, an other-worldly digital screech pierced the cabin for over three seconds and my nightmares forever. The sound was similar to someone holding a microphone near a speaker. This apparently was an issue with the head-unit which the dealer promised would be fixed. However, upon looking through some paperwork, it seems attempts to fix the issue had taken place by the prior dealer. Having something like this happen on a fairly new car speaks volumes about FIAT's quality.
      But after you hit 'D' on the centre console and hit the road, the 500e's gremlins took a back seat in what is a genuinely fun runabout.  
      Acceleration from 0 - 50km/h is brisk, and I found myself taking the right lane at red lights to get the jump on everyone else. While nowhere as visceral as a Tesla's take-off, the FIAT springs forward with just enough brio to put a cheeky smirk on your face, not unlike the one you had when you drove a go-kart for the first time.
      Dancing through traffic is a breeze with the 500e's instant torque and diminutive proportions. Zipping in and out of lanes, and around city corners is good fun, despite the hard, mileage-oriented tires and extra 600 lbs from the batteries, as well as the large B-pillar on the left side which creates a sizeable blind spot.
      The 500e's steering is engaging enough for most of us, and the car would likely be an entertaining cliffside drive alternative to its Abarth cousin.
      Parking the FIAT is simple, with it's small stature and included sensors making it easy to whip in and out of stalls, and in-between cars, even with the blind sports impeding vision. Best of all, the 500e's driver likely won't have to hunt for a spot very long, with plenty of EV-specific stalls in parkades.
      With about 150 kilometers of range, the 500e's is suitable for the average Canadian commute of 17km to work.
      (Insert Stereotypical Italian Phrase Here)
      I didn't have an opportunity to take the 500e on the freeway, nor charge it. Range is a respectable 150km, which is competitive considering a current-year base model Nissan Leaf and standard Smart Electric clock in at 135km and 160km respectively, while the FIAT offers arguably more spirited handling and panache. 
      At used prices hovering around $15,000 CAD and fairly low mileages, the 500e makes a great deal of sense as a primary car for people living in or adjacent to a city. 
      I have two major concerns:
      First, is that FIAT's battery warranty is not applicable in Canada. This means that owners will have to pay out of pocket in the event of issues. Dealers are being fairly up-front about this, however some of their ads promise 'free powertrain warranty' or 'free lifetime engine warranty,' which don't apply to the battery system and while likely from a template, are dubious. 
      Second of course, is FIAT's own reliability track record, which reinforces my first concern.
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